cover image Something Special: A Story

Something Special: A Story

Iris Murdoch. W. W. Norton & Company, $15.95 (64pp) ISBN 978-0-393-05007-3

A poor neighborhood of Dublin in the 1950s provides the setting for this stunningly affecting short story by the late Murdoch, appearing in book form for the first time. Yvonne Geary is getting on toward spinsterhood. At age 24, she is dismissive of her stolid suitor, Sam Goldman, who courts her with gentle respect. Yvonne's mother and uncle, with whom she shares shabby lodgings, urge her to marry Sam despite his being ""one of the Chosen People."" In fact, Sam's ""not like the run of Jew-boys at all,"" claims Mrs. Geary, in one of her unconsciously bigoted remarks about the tribe she calls ""those ones."" His religion is not what Yvonne objects to in Sam; it's his dogged but mundane devotion. What she desperately wants is romance, and what she gets instead is an uproar in a seedy bar when an inebriated poet takes a fancy to her. In a poignant denouement, Yvonne understands the kind of ""poetry"" Sam would offer and comes to terms with the realities of her life. Despite its cutting, humorous details, this story is more wistful and gentler than much of Murdoch's work, and it gains power from illustrator Michael McCurdy's rough-hewn woodcuts. Its diminutive size (5""x7"") and the fact that no further works will be forthcoming from its respected author are both strong indications for a potential stocking stuffer during the holidays. (Nov.)